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DNR urges Minnesotans to stay 'dry' on the water this Fourth of July

 A pontoon boat and a red fishing boat are parked at a dock in a lake. A slight breeze ripples the water and green trees are visible in the background

Boating while intoxicated is the leading contributing factor to boating accidents and fatalities, and boaters should use extra caution given high water levels.

Minnesotans are getting ready for lots of time on the water as the Fourth of July holiday approaches, and public safety officials are reminding them to keep safety at the top of their list.

There will be increased law enforcement on the state’s waterways as part of Operation Dry Water, a nationwide campaign running July 4-6.

The operation aims to highlight the dangers of boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs and calls attention to the heavy penalties associated with boating while intoxicated.

In a news release from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Lt. Eric Sullivan, supervisor of the enforcement division's marine unit, said the state's BWI laws are among the strongest in the nation.

"Law enforcement will be out in full force, and the penalties for boating under the influence are severe. They include hefty fines and possible jail time," Sullivan said.

In Minnesota, anyone convicted of drinking and driving — whether they're operating a boat, motor vehicle or recreational vehicle — will lose their privilege to operate any of them. Boating while intoxicated is the leading contributing factor to boating accidents and fatalities.

The DNR also urges anyone who’s on a boat this week or any time to wear a life jacket.

This year’s boating season requires extra caution with locally high water and several jurisdictions requesting boaters to slow down.

On Friday, the Cass County Sheriff’s Office expanded its suggested no wake zone on lakes and rivers to 200 feet from shorelines, in channels and when entering bays because of the high rainfall in recent weeks.

Similar warnings have also been issued by the St. Louis and Crow Wing county sheriff's offices.

The Cass, Crow Wing and St. Louis county sheriff's offices have all asked boaters to be cautious to help prevent shoreline damage with waters high after heavy rainfall.

The advisories aim to protect sensitive shorelines, private property, docks and other water structures.

The Cass County Sheriff’s Office and DNR share the following messaging about “Owning your Own Wake”:

  • Be aware of your environment
  • Have a designated lookout
  • If crossing a wake, cross at low speeds and keep a close lookout for skiers and towables
  • Comply with all signs and respect barriers, including speed limits and no-wake zones
  • Stay away from shorelines, docks or other structures
  • Travel slowly in shallow waters and avoid boating in water less than 2½ feet deep. High speeds near shorelines lead to large wakes that cause shoreline erosion
  • Check local ordinances, restrictions, closures and permit requirements for the body of water you are on
  • Minimize repetitive passes. Once you’ve run a line, move on to another area
  • Respect the rights of others — minimize noise and be courteous